You Deserve A Break: Common Employer Lunch Break Rights Violations, Part I

Here’s the good news: generally speaking, the law recognizes that it’s important for everybody to take breaks—it’s good for our health, and good for our ability to be productive at work! Lunch breaks and rest breaks are a vital aspect of employee morale and effectiveness. That being said, what may make good common sense and business sense does not always play out the way it’s supposed to in real life.

Employees have rights under federal law that protect their wages when an employer allows breaks. Federal law does not dictate that employers provide those breaks in the first place, but you are always entitled to be paid for the time you work, such as if you work through meal break periods.  Your time and pay also shouldn’t be docked for short rest breaks (less than 20 minutes) at all. New York law, in theory, goes further than federal law and says that employees have actual rights to take meal breaks. Unfortunately, if an employer does not provide its workers with breaks like they are supposed to, the law does not allow you to sue them just for that failure alone.

However, break rights are commonly violated by employers in other ways as well that can be (and frequently are) the subject of claims. Your best defense against such employers is to empower yourself by learning your rights and what to watch for. In this two-part blog we will detail some common violations of lunch and rest break rights that are practiced by many employers. As always, if you have questions about your rights or believe you have been the victim of illegal wage practices, please contact the law firm of AndersonDodson and let us fight to ensure you are always paid what you deserve.

Violation #1 – Employers often deduct time for a lunch break that you never took. For example, maybe the employer allows a 30 minute lunch but you didn’t clock out for it because you were still working.  If your manager goes in and manually takes out the half hour you were supposed to (but didn’t) take, that is a violation of your rights.  Employees are always entitled to be paid for ALL the hours they work, so if you skip a lunch break to work, employers are supposed to pay you for that time. If you worked it, you should be paid for it.

Violation # 2 – Some employers will give you a lunch break, but require that you stay at your desk, answer phones, meet with clients, or otherwise do work while you do so. Then, they will not pay you for that lunch break. Technically, this means you are working through your lunch break, and as we mentioned before, you are always entitled to be paid for the time you work. If your employer lets you take unpaid lunch breaks, but forces you to do work during that time, they are violating your rights.

Check back soon for Part II of this blog where we will detail two more major violations of your break rights that are often committed by employers. Do not allow yourself to be victimized. If your employer is not paying you what you are owed, contact the law firm of Anderson Dodson and we will fight to defend your rights.

Written by AndersonDodson


AndersonDodson, P.C. is a law firm dedicated to holding employers accountable for paying their employees correctly. We are aggressive and tenacious when we need to be, if that’s what it takes to get the job done. Sometimes the playground bully needs to be brought down a notch, and we are plenty equipped for a fight if it becomes necessary. But we also don’t go looking for a fight. Our mission is to get our clients paid what the law says they deserve, not to stir up trouble where none is needed. Trouble is distracting from life, and living life should always come first.